When Jamie Vardy made a million pound move from Conference winners Fleetwood Town to Championship side Leicester City in the summer of 2012, only the most optimistic of his family and fans could have envisaged him becoming the hottest scoring property in the Premier League in little over three years. His goal against Crystal Palace last Saturday was typical of many he scored for Fleetwood. He pounced and in a moment had lashed the ball past the keeper. Significantly, it was his seventh scoring game in succession, an achievement only recorded on seven previous occasions in the Premier League. The former Stocksbridge Park Steels striker now stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Alan Shearer and Ian Wright.
The 28 year-old’s success will feel particularly sweet on the Fylde peninsula in Lancashire. It was there that Fleetwood Town chairman, Andy Pilley, and manager, Micky Mellon, stepped in ahead of many other interested clubs and paid decent cash for a non-league player to take Vardy from FC Halifax soon after the start of the 2011-12 season. Fleetwood had exceeded many expectations to make the play-offs in their first Conference season the previous year and went into the new campaign with hope and a determination to go one better after a heavy semi-final play-off defeat to AFC Wimbledon.
A return of two goals in five games was a disappointing start and a 4-0 defeat on a calamitous evening at old rivals Barrow was too much to take for the chairman. Town simply did not look like scoring that night. Jamie Vardy had been on many clubs’ radar over the summer and was deemed to be one of the best players in non-league football. Pilley felt that he needed to act after showing his ambition with a new multi-million pound stand at Highbury. He wanted Football League status and saw that the Yorkshireman, who had averaged comfortably over one goal per two games, might be the man to spark a team full of talent and experience.
The matador did not take long to make an impact. Two goals against Kettering Town set the ball rolling and a total of 34 goals in 40 appearances catapulted his side into the Football League. Vardy’s blinding pace and audacious talent bamboozled many defenders, creating goals, assists, free kicks and penalties galore.
Vardy was larger than life, with a hint of arrogance and a wicked sense of humour. The Cod Army were living the dream as they applauded his skills. The offers came thick and fast in the January window but Pilley resisted them, making it clear to his star that he could leave with his blessing at the end of the season. Hopefully, job done and Football League status confirmed. That was the way it worked out.
It has taken a while to settle at Leicester but the swagger and confidence that characterised his Fleetwood Town days are now back in abundance. England appearances have followed and Vardy’s current stock is sky high.
Almost four years to the day, the Premier League’s top scorer graduated from scoring his opening goals for Fleetwood Town at Kettering Town to an England appearance against San Marino in the European Championships. Roy of the Rovers is alive and well and playing at the King Power Stadium!